“Would you be willing to give the keynote address for our inaugural Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIBs) Day?”
It’s hard to pass an opportunity to speak to a group of engineers (who represent about 15,000 employees) about gender, diversity, and inclusion at Microsoft’s headquarters. But I had a dilemma. The keynote was scheduled in Seattle on the same day as my son’s fifth-grade graduation in Denver. I managed to make both events and I’m glad I did.
Being at Microsoft, I saw first hand how this tech giant is standing forward on gender equity. Although they still have ground to cover before realizing gender equity, here are three examples that stood out to me the most.
1. Goodbye, Binding Arbitration
I mentioned the subject of binding arbitration in my keynote and as I did, heads started nodding.
Microsoft gave employees (back) the right to speak up without fear of being silenced in December of 2017 when they removed the binding arbitration clause from their employment agreements. In fact, they were the first Fortune 100 company to remove binding arbitration clauses in employment agreements.
The binding arbitration clause allows companies to keep discrimination and harassment claims away from court. By keeping the claims away from court, companies can legally hide any misconduct from the public eye. This type of clause impedes workers’ 7th amendment rights and obstructs labor laws designed to protect them.
Removing the clause means that allegations of harassment or discrimination can no longer be kept secret.
There was a palpable swell of pride coming from the audience during this portion of my keynote, and I could tell the employees felt proud to be working for a company taking bold action toward gender equity.
2. Hello, Returning Workers
Many women find it difficult to return to their careers after taking time off to care for family. Ensuring women have a pathway to re-enter the workforce matters: we need to increase both today’s labor force and the labor force of the future. This pathway is all the more pressing considering how the U.S. is up against a workforce shortage of 5 million workers.
Microsoft showed its commitment to gender equity by expanding a program that helps women return to work. Considering that stay-at-home moms are less than half as likely to get an interview as moms who got laid off, expanding the returnship program is a step in the right direction.
Let’s not forget: almost 62% of households with married parents rely on women’s earnings.
That’s 62% of households with married parents relying on mom to rejoin the workforce.
3. Be Bold (and Create a Better System)
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, was voted the second best CEO for women out of 50 CEOs. Nadella meant it when he said, “Our ambitions are bold and so must be our desire to change and evolve our culture.”
During his tenure, Nadella has deployed programs proving his willingness to change, evolve, and create a more inclusive system. And that’s just it: he is not focused on fixing women, he’s focused on fixing the system.
Nadella knows that gender equity is not only about equal pay for equal work, it’s about, “equal opportunity for equal work.” According to Nadella, his job is to create a system where women will:
- Participate equally
- Expect to receive equitable pay
- Be recognized
As one of the world’s largest software companies, Microsoft’s commitment to gender equity is critically important. Employees left the event with a copy of Brene Brown’s book, “Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.” (That book is foundational to the ethos of Pipeline.) I left the event inspired, energized, and with an hour to spare before my son’s elementary school graduation.
Perhaps by the time my son graduates from high school we’ll see a new wave of enterprises — large and small — turn their awareness into action.
What does action look like? It looks like closing the gender equity gap and in doing so, increasing the United States’ GDP by $2T. See first hand how Pipeline can put your company on an actionable and profitable path to parity.